AC Milan handed Arsenal

The defending champions are drawn to play the English leaders.

The task is laid out for all 16 remaining teams [AFP] 

Defending champion AC Milan will play Premier League leader Arsenal in the second round of the Uefa Champions League, and Inter Milan will face Liverpool in another matchup between Italian and English clubs.

Nine-time European winner Real Madrid meets AS Roma in another matchup, while English champion Manchester United takes on six-time defending French titlist Lyon.

Also, it’s: FC Barcelona vs. Celtic; Chelsea vs. Olympiakos; Schalke vs. FC Porto; and Fenerbahce vs. Sevilla.

“It’s Milan vs. England,” AC Milan organising director Umberto Gandini said.

“We’ve seen better draws. Certainly this was the most difficult of the teams we could have faced. We’ll be playing as the reigning European and world champion and hopefully we can keep going.”

The matchup is a surprisingly rare one bearing in mind the two teams play Champions League soccer year after year.

Milan and Arsenal have been matched together once before, in the two-leg 1995 Super Cup.

The teams drew 0-0 at Highbury and Milan won 2-0 at San Siro.

“Hopefully we can turn this around this time,” said Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman, whose team hosts the first leg.

“We would have probably preferred an easier one at this stage but this is a great match.”

Liverpool v Inter Milan

Five-time champion Liverpool has been in two of the last three finals, beating AC Milan on penalties in 2005 and losing to the same club 2-1 last season.

Now it takes on the other Milan powerhouse, which is unbeaten in 16 games and leads the Serie A but hasn’t won the European title since 1965.

“The history is in favor of Liverpool but our team has been in good form so I hope we will be in the right condition to win this match,” said Inter chief executive Ernesto Paolillo, who hopes that experienced midfielders Dejan Stankovic, Patrick Vieira and Luis Figo will have recovered in time for
the games.

“We are a very strong unit.”

Liverpool hasn’t won the English league title since 1990 and appears to have saved its best form for the Champions League and domestic cup competitions.

“It’s a big one but was it going to be whoever we had drawn,” Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry said.

“It’s a long time since we played them, they are a very good team. It’s going to be tough but there are no easy ones at this stage.

“Every team at this stage is a good team, if you look at who we could have drawn it was never going to be easy so we shall take who we get. We’ve stopped a few hearts the way we have qualified but in the last three games we are clearly in form and scoring goals.”

Barcelona played Celtic four times in 2004.

The Scottish team ousted Barcelona in the Uefa Cup quarterfinals and, the following season, Barcelona won one group game and drew the other in the Champions League.

Porto v Schalke

Porto returns to the Gelsenkirchen Stadium where it became European champion in 2004, beating Monaco 3-0 under coach Jose Mourinho a year after lifting the Uefa Cup.

Former FC Porto goalkeeper Vitor Baia, who played in both games and is now a club official, admitted the Portuguese champions knew little about their German opponents.

“We don’t know them very well at all but we have two months to find out,” Baia said.

“They have a powerful attack and a tight defense, that much is obvious.”

The 16 teams, which have a combined 30 titles in European football’s most prestigious club competition, went into the draw at Uefa’s headquarters.

Clubs from the same country were kept apart in the draw, and so were teams who advanced to the knockout round from the same group.

The first leg of the second round takes place February 19-20, with the return games on March 4-5.

The final is on May 21 at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Source: News Agencies

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